The Union government has declared Kiriteswari, a small hamlet around 25km from Behrampore in Murshidabad, as the winner among 795 contestants across India vying for the Best Tourism Village crown this year.
The news of the hamlet, which falls in the jurisdiction of Nabagram police station, winning a national award was appreciated by chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Mamata took to X on Thursday to express her joy over the achievement.
“Glad to share and announce that Kiriteshwari in the Murshidabad district of West Bengal has been selected by the Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, as the Best Tourism Village of India,” Mamata posted.
Through the annual contest, the ministry of tourism aims to develop and promote rural life and cultural heritage of the potential rural tourist destinations all over India. This year, 795 villages from 31 states and Union Territories vied for the top slot, said district tourism development officer of Murshidabad Sabyasachi Khanroy.
He said: “A video showcasing the culture and heritage of Kiriteswari village was initially sent to the state tourism department. After due approval, district magistrate Debarshi Rai presented a three-minute video before officials of the central tourism department to stake claim for the award. On September 21, we came to know that Kiriteswari won the contest.”
Apart from handloom industries and a rich cultural background, an age-old temple proved to be its USP.
The temple is one of the 51 Shaktipeethas (shrines for the Shaktism cult that had been built on the sites where the various body parts of goddess Sati were believed to have fallen) in the Indian subcontinent. The ancient Hindu shrine, which consists of the Kiriteswari temple and the Kiriteswari Gupta temple, had been built on a land where the Kirit (crown) of Sati had fallen.
Kiriteswari houses some 25,000 inhabitants from Hindu, Muslim and tribal communities in a harmonious mix. Its handloom industry has also contributed to the prolific tourism in the area.
The secretary of the Kiriteswari Mandir Committee, Prabhat Chandra Das, said, “Our locality has all the basic amenities like clean drinking water, primary health care centres and education faculties. There are handloom industries that provide employment to a large number of individuals. It has every reason to win the crown. We hope the award will bring more people to the village and help boost the village economy.”
Amid a climate of polarisation, Kiriteswari stands as a model for communal and casteist harmony. History has it that the Kiritieswari temple is grounded on the village's long-held tradition of communal amity.
The social media handle of the state government's tourism department claims that the temple in its present form was built in the 19th century by the King of Lalgola Darpanarayan. Legend has it that the Kiriteswari Gupta temple stands on a plot owned by Abdul Hakim Mondal and Takimunnesha Bibi. The Mondal family's connection with the temple continues with his descendant Shirajul Islam holding a feast at the temple on Durga Puja's Ashtami every year.
"The tradition of communal harmony runs deep in the village. It has been a tradition of my maternal family to arrange the Ashtami feast. This has been going on for ages. I provide fish for the grand Ashtami bhog every year," said Shirajul, who owns several ponds in the area.
Pankaj Kumar Das, Kiriteswari villager, said: “It is an honour to emerge victorious among 795 villages."